How Can You Efficiently Cool a Building Full of Machines?

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Operating expenses can be very costly for any building, especially when it comes to temperature control. There’s an ideal environment for people or machines to work, and if that isn’t met, a multitude of problems can arise.

Addressing this problem is why the HVAC industry exists in the first place. In order to keep a building and its working environment at acceptable temperatures, manufacturers and inventors came up with the idea of a ductless HVAC system, helping workers and buildings operate at peak efficiency. It’s highly likely that the buildings near your Knoxville home have this type of HVAC system.

Let’s take a look at one of the innovations that this industry has brought about: free cooling.

Letting nature do its work

Free cooling follows the concept of natural ventilation but applies it to cooling a building’s interior. It works by using the natural ambient temperature found outside the facility on water or coolant that it then disperses around the facility; therefore, lowering the overall temperature.

This approach is beneficial for operations in two ways:

  • Natural efficiency – Unlike artificial cooling systems such as air conditioning or mechanical venting, free cooling is more efficient when it comes to energy costs and overall effectiveness in comparison to the effort required.
  • Financial efficiency – Since this system relies on the ambient temperature outdoors to generate the majority of its cooling power, there’s little need to use actual raw energy to achieve the same result.

For companies, this can mean huge savings when it comes to operational costs since the alternative (active cooling or mechanical cooling) can often be very expensive to set up and maintain. This system becomes even more attractive when you think about the types of companies and buildings that can use free cooling to its maximum advantage.

Which industries can best benefit from this system?

Commercial space centralized air conditionerAdmittedly, free cooling may not be the best option for facilities that are primarily worker-centric, as shifts, schedules, and overall foot traffic can vastly affect the airflow in and out of the building. The need for natural lighting in such buildings can often mean the default way of cooling down is natural ventilation, which can make a free cooling system more of a luxury than a necessity.

However, data centers or buildings that have a lot of fixed production machinery can greatly benefit from a free cooling system. Not only is it suitable for the design of the building (which is normally already closed in, making natural ventilation and cooling very difficult) but the existing infrastructure of both the facility and the machines inside it can be easily adjusted to accommodate such a system.

It is important to note that while free cooling is a viable alternative to mechanical refrigeration or temperature control, it’s best used as a parallel system, not a complete replacement. Since seasonal and weather changes can often play a big role in the efficiency of free cooling systems, having another method that can take over in the event that it becomes difficult to implement is a good practice for any facility.